Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yes, there will be a drop-in tonight.

SYSTEM: ICONS It is, uh, quarter to six as I write this, and I should have let people know earlier...but. Yesterday I went in to work for the first time in a year, and that was a looooong day, and it kind of ruined me today. But back on the horse... If we can. Tonight at 7:00 Eastern, Roll20.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A thought

I don't think I've ever done a session where the bad guy is attacking because he or she has a crush on one of the heroes. (I have been watching the web episodes of Justice League Action Shorts and that came to mind during the Lasso of Truth short.)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Something found

SYSTEM: ICONS So, uh, I have a confession to make. My copy of Microsoft Word stopped working about a year ago. There was an update, and it stopped. And I didn't tell anyone. (And it's Word 2010, so Microsoft just kept saying, "Not supported any more. Buy a new one.") Anything I was working on, however, was lost if it was in Word. Well, yesterday it started working again. Another update that corrects whatever Microsoft did with the first one. I have a certain amount of stuff to look through, but in the meantime, here's an adventure I was toying with involving the Supergirl TV show. It takes place after the first season, and some of the sections have nothing more than a title and an introductory paragraph. But you can see what I was doing, way back when.

The Lobo Adventure

“If there's no collateral damage, you're not doing it right”

You know how some stories have a deeper emotional resonance? This ain't one of those. This is a story of fighting, revenge, and property damage, and the heroes caught in the middle.

My theory is that the players will be fans of Supergirl, not roleplaying, so I've been more instructive than an adventure might usually be. If you're an experienced roleplayer, you might be able to get by with the scene summaries.

This adventure is for two to three players and a game master. Players take the roles of Supergirl, Hank Henshaw/J'onn J'onzz, orz Alex Danvers. I haven't had anyone playtest this, so I have no idea how it will work in play.

If there are only two players and one chooses to play Alex Danvers, you might need to adjust some of the fights to make them slightly easier. If the players are losing, then the GM should remember that hero points and determination points are meant to overcome this kind of imbalance. Find excuses to give out more points, and encourage them to spend the points.

Adventure Summary for the Players

This adventure starts with the arrival of Lobo.

The DEO already knows about Lobo, but Supergirl does not. The standard package given to DEO agents who might encounter Lobo is in section 1.3. It’s up to the players (if any) of Hank, Alex, and Supergirl if Supergirl knows this information at the beginning of the adventure.

The adventure assumes that all of the events of season 1 have taken place, except the arrival of the Kryptonian pod. (We ignore that.)

Scene 1: The Threat

This introductory scene takes place in two locations: it's the brief introduction where the player characters learn that there's a problem. Each exchange is a little setup to show where the characters are coming from. Make them fast so that the player who is not involved is not sitting for long, or give the non-involved player an NPC to play.

1.1 Al's Diner Parking Lot

(Players: Hank, Alex, or both. Obviously, skip this scene if no player is portraying Hank or Alex.)

Hank and Alex are in the parking lot of Al's Diner, talking to a waitress and the owner. Hank and Alex are dressed in suits as FBI agents.

This is the parking lot of Stan’s Diner, and it’s certainly an incident scene.  There are ten chalk outlines of bodies, small folded cardboards from clue examinations, and one ambulance, whose attendants are checking out the last person. (No one died, but the other nine people are in hospital or custody.)

A gang of ten local toughs objected to their coffee in an attempt to leave without paying for it, Al and Darlene objected that the coffee was fresh, and the toughs left. The man followed them outside and fought them. The last one is being checked out by ambulance attendants.

Sample Al and Darlene conversation

Al says, "We seen him before, big guy, gravelly voice. Way he dresses, I figure he's a what do you call it, Darlene?"

Darlene: "Goth. Eye makeup, wild hair, vest. He always orders pie. He likes the apple pie."

Al: "I make it myself. Secret is the cardamom."

Darlene: "This guy, he usually tips well, but sometimes it's foreign money." She smiles, showing dimples. “He likes me.”

If asked, she has some of the coins.  To the DEO agents, they are clearly extraterrestrial in origin.

Hank and Alex realize that Lobo is back in town. They automatically know everything in the DEO handout, but succeeding at the skill roll gives them extra information.

Hero Point and Determination Point opportunities

If the player or players do any roleplaying at all, getting into character when talking to Al and Darlene, provide a point. If you add a brief combat where the remaining thug surges from the ambulance and rushes Al or Darlene and the player stops them, provide a point.

If you want to try the skill system


Roll a d6 and add INT; the GM rolls a d6 and adds the difficulty of 3. Higher roll wins.


Result Information
Failure No additional information.
One degree of success Lobo knows where the DEO is because they tried to arrest him once. Before the remodelling.
Two degrees Lobo hasn't done anything yet—other information from Darlene and Al indicates that he gets pie before and after a job.
Three or more degrees Lobo is probably alone, because he dislikes sharing a job. He will work with other people, but he doesn't split the pay.

If there is no Supergirl player, and you want to try the combat system

The remaining thug surges from the ambulance where he' seeing treated to attack either Darlene or Al, and the players have to stop him non-lethally. You don't need full stats for him, and use the minion rules: one hit that does any damage, and he goes down. (Warn the players that real opponents are tougher.)

Prw 3 Crd 3 Str 4 Int 2 Awe 3 Will 2

Stamina 6

The End of the Scene

The phone rings. It is Vasquez. "Sir? Lobo is standing here. He's not doing anything. He's just waiting."

If there is a Supergirl player and they haven't already called Kara, she says, "I've already called Supergirl." If pressed, Vasquez says, "Sir, he's fought Superman to a draw. It seemed prudent."

1.2 CatCo WorldWide Media

(Players: Kara Danvers Obviously, skip this scene if there is no Supergirl playing.)

Kara has just come out of a meeting when her phone rings. Vasquez briefly outlines the problem and requests her help. As she's hanging up, Cat Grant is looking for her.

She can choose to leave or to make an excuse to Cat Grant, or to ask for help covering from either Winn or James.

Give the flavor of CatCo, but don't make it difficult for Supergirl to get to the DEO. If the player chooses to do something idiotic, it has consequences later but for now Kara simply has to get to the DEO.

Hero Point and Determination Point opportunities

Again, if the player attempts any kind of roleplaying, reward him or her with a point. There aren’t many opportunities for a point here, but one might show up.

If the player decides to spend a point, Kara avoids failing at generating the excuse.

If the player wants to try the skill system

ICONS Roll a D6 and add Kara's Willpower. The GM rolls a D6 and adds Cat Grant's willpower of 4.

If Kara fails, Cat requests that Kara keep her phone handy and will phone her at some awkward moment, but lets Kara go. If Kara succeeds, Cat waves her off.

1.3 The DEO Informational Summary About Lobo

Anyone associated with the DEO knows the following information, which is given to agents who might encounter Lobo.

The player for Supergirl can decide whether Alex has already told her this information, or whether Alex phones her and tells her while they're both heading to the DEO.







Bounty Hunter/Mercenary



Known weapons:

Restraining chain

Bolter rifle

Frag grenades


Strength, resilience, regeneration, self-cloning


Concerned with completing mission. Relishes violence and collateral damage.


Fond of Al's Diner. Likes the pie.

Claims to be last Czarnian because he killed rest.



Each separated body fragment grows into a clone of Lobo.

Threat range is A: Carggite - T: Kryptonian

2.0 At the DEO

Adjust this scene as necessary if either Hank or Kara is missing. For the purposes of this scene, any non-player DEO agent other than Alex is a minion, and is knocked out by any damage at all.

By the kind of coincidence that happens in roleplaying games, all of the player characters arrive at the same time. Lobo is still standing there, staring at the DEO staff. He is in the main room, positioned so that he can see the main screens. He is fully armed. (Really, who was going to take his weapons?)

In the background, DEO agents are clearing the lab of expensive equipment. They have not removed much, and the carts of equipment might be used later for throwing and hitting.

Lobo is in the middle of explaining his “ideal date” with Vasquez. It involves a bar brawl in a place he knows in the Omega system…

Vasquez breaks off to tell the players that Lobo has resisted all approaches by DEO personnel. They didn't try to arrest him because the director hadn't given them orders and because he hadn't made any moves. Vasquez is not the first person to have an ideal date described.

Lobo frequently looks at the prisoner screens, which show each prisoner in sequence. Notable prisoners that show up are the White Martian, the K'hund, Jemm, and Non. (If a player asks, the DEO has the parts of Indigo in a drawer in the morgue, and the inside of the drawer is not visible by camera.)

Lobo addresses the player characters. “Yer here. Good. I wuz gettin’ bored. These nerfs are not competition. But a Martian?” Substitute a Kryptonian if no one is playing Hank. “That could be a fight. And I wants a fight.” He cracks his knuckles.

Give the players a moment or two. Really, Lobo is waiting for the computer systems to go offline, which can happen as soon as you want, but from a play standpoint, we want this fight.

If Hank's player tries, he cannot read Lobo's mind. There is a small beeping and Lobo says, "You're trying to read my mind, ya bastich. The main man is prepared f'r ya. A Lonothian whipped up a little mental shield for me. When we fight, it'll be the way I like it, bloody and brutal."

Don't give the players time to do much, but let them do something.

Now the cameras go offline. All the screens displaying the prisoners go blue and display the text OFFLINE. Lobo grabs a frag grenade and says, "It's playtime!" He tosses frag grenades into the middle of the DEO agents. For the convenience of the GM, they are knocked unconscious. He also throws a grenade into the Armory, and all the guns go off. That knocks unconscious any other DEO agents who aren't Alex or Hank.

The noise of all those guns shatters the glass walls of both the armory and the lab.

If both Hank and Kara are player characters, one of the shots hits Lobo and breaks a piece off him.  (Give the players a Hero point or a Determination point.)

If the players spend a turn or two getting innocent unconscious DEO agents to safety, that's being heroic, and deserves another Hero point or Determination point.

The piece quickly grows into a clone of Lobo, so now there are two Lobos. He looks at the first Lobo and says, "I know the plan, ya dumb bastich." The clone is naked, so he takes a pair of pants from an unconscious DEO agent. "What? I gotta keep my PG rating," he says to no one in particular. Because that takes a little bit of time, this Lobo enters the combat at the third round.

Now there's no one left but the player characters, one or two Lobos, and Alex (if she is there, whether she is a player character or not). Combat officially begins. Roll Initiative to determine the combat order. The clone Lobo enters at the third round of combat, but for convenience is at the Initiative of the original Lobo.

If there are two heroes and if possible, the Lobo with the hook and chain begins by restraining the hero he is not fighting, so that he can concentrate on just one target. (If Alex is a player character, he mostly ignores her.) If he manages to restrain Kara, she can still use her heat vision or her freeze breath while restrained, and try to get free. Her Extraordinary Effort advantage means that she can do two extra actions if she chooses to use Extra Effort. To restrain her flying, Lobo will hook the chain to something so she can't fly after him. If she chooses to try, she can demolish anything she is hooked to.

After five rounds, lights in the corridor to the isolation chambers start flashing. "Yeah, I remember your fraggin' plan," says Lobo. "I'm comin' ya (unmentionable)." He takes off down the corridor.

Hero Point and Determination Point opportunities

The players each get a point if Lobo gets wounded by the Armory going off.

A clever use of powers gets a point.

Any hero who tries to protect or make safe the fallen DEO agents gets a hero point for being heroic.


Lots of property damage. Punch people through walls and computer screens. Use consoles as clubs. When Lobo fights, things get broken.

If the Lobo characters look like they're going to win, they'll fight until they actually win, and the game continues with scene 3.0. If the Lobo characters look like they're going to lose, and there are still unconscious DEO agents there, they'll split up: one Lobo tries to create a situation where the roof will cave in and endanger the unconscious agents.  The other heads down the lit corridor. (If there is only one hero, Lobo heads down the corridor while causing maximum property damage.)

If the Lobo clone is the only one to stay conscious, he fulfils the mission, running down the corridor to help the other Lobo. If the other Lobo has already left, the Lobo clone will leave.

2.1 The Fraggin’ Plan

One or both heroes should follow. If no hero follows, Lobo gets away with Non, and you don’t need to play this scene.

Any character following the fleeing Lobo sees that all corridors are dark except the one that Lobo is supposed to use. Because of the layout, J'onn or Supergirl cannot fly at full speed and catch up with Lobo. (The Flash could, but he’s not here.)

The original Lobo finally goes into an isolation room with Non, who is doing push-ups in his isolation chamber. Non is noticeably more muscular than previous appearances.* When Lobo enters the room, any player following him can see the kryptonite radiation lights turn off.

The door to Non's chamber is open. "Come on, ya bastich," growls Lobo. "I been hired to get you out of here."

Non does not move unless J’onn or Supergirl comes into the room. Then he attacks, attacking Supergirl if he has a choice.

Astra appears on a computer screen and tells Non to follow Lobo. (Indigo is imitating her on-screen.)

*Non has essentially been lobotomized. DEO characters know that his primary entertainment has been isometric exercise, and the kryptonite lights have made it possible for him to bulk up, because there really is resistance.

Lobo encourages Non to fly straight up, to the outside. He then follows.

2.2 Following Lobo

Non is as fast as Supergirl, and Lobo is perfectly willing to jump off Non and onto Supergirl or Hank for a fight. Following Lobo won’t be particularly successful: he’ll willingly quit traveling with Non to have a fight with J’onn or Kara.

2.3 Following Lobo’s Clone

If there is a remaining Lobo clone, they can bring him down or track him to his new destination--the place where Lobo parks his Space Bike.

The DEO can attempt to bring him in, but Hank suspects that the clone will re-stock and then decide to kill the other Lobo so that only he is the Main Man.

Which is, in fact, what he does. Following Lobo’s clone takes them to scene 4.0. You can still play scene 3.0, but it provides an alternative way to get to 4.0.

2.4 The Heroes Win

If the heroes win, they’ve made an enemy of Lobo, who is presumably locked up in a cage.

You can end the adventure here (and if they won, maybe you should). However, there are still questions to be answered. Who took control of the computer system? It can’t be Indigo or Livewire--one is in the DEO “morgue” and the other is in an isolation chamber.

3.0 For the Winn

If the computer system has been compromised, Winn gets to deal with it. He works at it all day. (If you’re in the first season, you can play a scene where Kara covers for him at work; she gets a Determination point for it. Or you can play a scene where J’onn imitates him, or where J’onn as Hank as an FBI guy goes and “commandeers” him from Cat, because of something that Toyman did. What, he can’t say. But he needs Winn.)

At the end of that time, Winn gets Kara, Hank, and Alex together to give his report at Kara’s apartment. For reasons that will become evident, he doesn’t want to do this in the DEO headquarters.

Read this as Winn’s report.

“You’re screwed. I don’t see any other way to say this. You have three different computer systems checking each other here and they’re all compromised. The hacker left so many holes and security breaches that a twelve-year-old with a Gameboy can get access to your system now. I’d blame Indigo but she’s in the morgue. The only bright side is that the damage was done in the last two weeks. It re-establishes itself very cleverly, but a full system restore should clean it.” He chews his knuckle. “I mean, I’ll check that version too because maybe I’m wrong about when it was compromised, but that looks like it’ll work.”

The DEO is vulnerable while it’s being done. Physical backups have to be brought in from the secret place in New Mexico where they are stored, and each computer system takes eight hours to restore.

3.1 The Obvious Clue

After Winn restores from backups, the system responds by taunting him and letting him know that he made a mistake: he's given Indigo what she wanted.

3.2 The Breakout

The various isolation chambers are opening one by one. In this case, it's not being done remotely—Winn has taken the whole place off line so that the restore can be done—but the "broken" Indigo is on the base. They've got to find her and knock her out, and for every few turns they take to track her down, someone else is freed from confinement.

Don't make this too long: we don't have write-ups for too many characters. If you let characters escape, they'll probably leave to create problems for future scenarios. Otherwise, have them encounter Indigo just as she's about to release the first one.

4.0 The Indigo Warehouse

Once there was a working Indigo copy, Indigo told it what it needed to know. The copy then left and created more backups but its ego is such that Indigo can't activate them unless there's a need. Attacking Indigo would be such a need. The heroes show up, several Indigos get activated, big fight ensues.

This season's Supergirl...

I liked the season premiere.

But you know what? (And I offer this without legal claim because it's just an idea.)

I'd like them to do an episode that presents the Cyborg Superman as an actual character and explains the name "Cyborg Superman." Essentially, they'd do bits from the last couple of years, mostly from Hank Henshaw's viewpoint, and actually put some meat on him, some complexity.

Which of course makes me think about running the occasional villain-centric episode of an RPG campaign, rather like the JLU episode "Task Force X."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Has the suck fairy visited any of these?

I was thinking fondly of some films, and I would show them to my children...except I don't know if the suck fairy has gotten to them in the intervening decades.

  • Young Frankenstein

Actually, I was going to make a list, but really, any film from before 2000 might have been visited by the Sexism or Racism fairies. I used to love The Stunt Man but I'm afraid to rewatch it.

Digression...a fantasy world


So I've been wondering why I don't read fantasy much any more. Besides the general oddly-I-don't-read-much-anymore reason, this is what irks me about fantasy right now. (And before I list it, let me point out that (a) this is a personal list, and (b) that I know there are exceptions, but right now I don't have a mechanism for finding the exceptions.

And because I haven't been reading fantasy, I might not even be right about the current state of fantasy. You are free to disagree with my opinions. I might be wrong, and I might change my mind. I'm not saying that these things aren't allowed to exist—they certainly are, but I don't have to read them.

First, personal taste: I like grimdark as a spice, not as a steady diet. So while I enjoy books by Joe Abercrombie, they aren't what I want to read most of the time. If your story is set in a crapsack world, I don't particularly want to read it right now. (A lot of my tastes right now are informed by having cancer: I don't actually want to read something where I have to search hard for the glimmer of hope—I get that in reality, thank you.)

I am tired of D&D with the serial numbers filed off. Various D&D worlds make no sense. I don't mind cod-medieval, but there's so much stuff that comes with it that you either have to justify or explain away.

I am tired of the whole "alpha-beta-gamma" thing happening in the urban fantasy stuff I pick up. I've read some of the original works on animals where they put the idea forward and (a) the representations in fiction and popular culture are nowhere near as nuanced as reality, and (b) I have some trouble applying the popular representation to people because people are a bit more complex than the whole "you're a beta so you're a whimpering coward ha ha ha" thing I see on certain toxic social networks.

I am tired of sloppy worldbuilding. Yes, there's totally a place for something that is primarily symbolic, and I can even accept fridge logic where I won't notice the problem until after I read the book. (Hey, I've read Dan Brown...I can accept fridge logic.) But if the story raises questions to me about the world-building while I'm reading it and I don't catch some hint that this inconsistency will be addressed or even acknowledged later...well, I'm probably not going to read book two in the series, and I might not pick it up again after I put it down. (I don't even mean things like storing energy for weapons, which pretty much everybody gets wrong.)

I am tired of "but the protagonist is special" stories. Well, all protagonists are special by virtue of the fact that it's their story, but they are royalty or nobility, are a mutant, are the Chosen One, or have more midichlorians than anyone else. Yes, that property comes down to us from Ancient Greek drama, where only royalty could star in tragedies.

I am leery of steampunk stories that ignore the classist parts of Victorian society while modelling everything else on Victorian society.

In general, I am leery of Third Artist Syndrome in areas where I'm educated enough to know the difference. (I can't find a good link to explain Third Artist Syndrome; Jo Walton explained it on her LiveJournal once, but she's deleted that account, and the other hit from a Google search is to James Nicoll, who refers to it but doesn't explain it. There might be another name for it.)

(Man, I'm picky.)

So, you know, like my filter that science fiction stories not be "the American Revolution in space," these filters eliminate huge swathes of fantasy.

Ah, somebody quoted Jo Walton's post on their tumblr and now I'm totally going to steal Jo's text, because the original article is deleted:

"The first artist goes out and paints from life. The second artist copies the first artist. The third artist copies the second artist. (I’ve usually seen this analogy applies to fantasy, with Tolkien as the first artist.) The first artist put things in because there were there, or in the case of SF, because they were new cool speculation. The second artist put them in because they were trying to get close to the first. The third artist put them in because heck, that’s what you put in."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wednesday's Drop In...


Didn't really happen. Only one player showed up. He had an idea for a new character and fortunately the dice gods played along. But my head still hurt and once the character was created, I was glad to quit. If I'd been feeling better, maybe I would have run him solo for a bit, but I just wasn't up to it.

Still, I did show up, so that's a step in the right direction. But if the existing two guys are the only ones who show up on Wednesdays, well, it's nice to have an ongoing campaign but it's not really a drop in kind of thing, is it?

Audio quality continues to be a problem. I said I was going to write up troubleshooting for people and I haven't. So I should do that, and then...

I'll have to think about what to do next. If the point is to expose the game to more players, this isn't doing it (yet).

Possibilities include changing the time or the venue, though that might not be fair to the players who are showing up. I can probably do a second weekly drop-in, but maybe I want to add two staggered biweekly events so there are three different nights of drop-ins. Changing venues is probably important: I could do something over on Infrno, or via Skype, Hangouts, or Discord. Any of the three might have better audio, and I can show images on Hangouts and Skype just by sharing my desktop. Dice would have to be on the honour system, but that's generally okay by me anyway; I worry about cheating because I am weak-willed, but don't actually worry much about others. (I don't cheat, but I'm sometimes tempted. And in a fine example of projection, I suspect others might be tempted too.)

On the plus side, last Wednesday is the first time that only one player showed up, and I have apologies from the other. So that's cool. I don't want to let these folks down, either.

Well. Think think think.

Write-Ups of ICONS Games


Don't recall if I've included this here before. These were all first edition games of ICONS. Most of these are written by and courtesy of James Nicoll. I'm gradually copying the posts of mine over here, so you'll see the addresses change, though the posts are still there.

Hope Preparatory School





I notice I last updated the page this is taken from on June 16, 2011, so this is old information.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

ICONS Drop-In...maybe?


I plan on being there and starting, but I'm not sure whether I'll be able to carry through. I'd like to try, though.

So if you were planning on showing up so you could test equipment...this might be an okay evening?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Daredevil, at no particular point


I said over on the Facebook group that I had a writeup of Daredevil, and then I couldn't find it...because it was on a PDF form I had created to do ICONS combat. I only got it to hero vs. minions, but it was decent enough that I could kill time with my phone entering in two characters and doing little mock combats. I had to calculate the stamina losses for the hero myself, but heck....

Anyway, I didn't have it anywhere else but on this PDF I had stored on a free service, so I couldn't find it. Today I ran across it while looking for something else.

So here. This is sort of a generic Daredevil. It's not the TV version, it's not a particular comic version. It hits most of the known stuff and probably misses some by lots.

SpecialtiesAthletics Master, Law, Martial Arts Expert, Stealth
Powers1Super-senses (Radar sense)
4Billy Club (Strike 4) Extra: Swinging Limit: One or the other, not both
QualitiesBlind; Secret ID: Lawyer Matt Murdock; Justice in all its forms

The master on Athletics lets him stunt off the athletics, doing "impossible" things, and he can certainly use the Athletics for acrobatic moves that make him harder to hit with ranged weapons. He has an awareness of 8, which seems plenty superhuman to me.